1. Health
Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

Surviving the Office Party With Your Dignity Intact

By December 1, 2012

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Photo  Donald Cook

At this time of year, many of us are expected to attend holiday parties at work. Office parties can be a dangerous time for recovering alcoholics, in particular. But they can also put others at risk of a variety of problems, ranging from mild embarrassment at having behaved in a somewhat undignified manner under the influence of alcohol, to criminal behavior or injury.

Although it might not seem like fun, it is a good idea to decide on a limit to your drinking in advance. This should be less than, not as much as it takes to get you drunk. A good general guide for the duration of the party is:

  • Recovering alcoholic or long term abstinent person: no alcohol
  • Light or occasional drinker: one alcoholic drink
  • Regular drinker: two alcoholic drinks
  • Take particular care if you were a regular or heavy drinker in the past, but have had a period of abstinence from drinking, perhaps because of a lifestyle change, such as becoming a parent. Your tolerance to alcohol will be much lower than before, so you will get drunk very quickly, although the old habit of drink following drink may seem natural at the party.

    Why so restrained? Well, besides the fact that binge drinking is harmful, you should if at all possible avoid allowing your colleagues, and in particular, your superiors, to see you under the influence. You may think that drinking will make you look like a more fun, laid-back person. It is more likely that alcohol will make you appear less intelligent than you really are, and that it will lower your inhibitions so that you say or do things you will later regret.

    While you may consider them friends, work colleagues are often rivals, and it may damage your reputation irreversibly if you go too far, and end up vomiting on or attempting to seduce a colleague. If you do end up having sex with a colleague, it is unlikely to be fun having to see each other at work every day, particularly if others are aware of what has taken place.

    It should go without saying that the work party is not the time or place to let people know that you take drugs, either by telling them, offering them drugs, or "spiking" other people's drinks. You may believe that a colleague is a real party animal underneath, and "needs" something to loosen them up, but consider that there is a reason that part of them is "underneath," and that is probably where it should stay. You may, in fact, be incorrect, and find that your colleague has an extremely unpleasant experience as a result.

    So, think of the office party as an opportunity to enhance, and not diminish your reputation at work. Stay sober, get home safe (take a taxi if you have drunk any alcohol at all), and it would be wisest to "forget" your colleagues' indescretions when you later see them at work.

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